“I’m innocent here,” he said, “other than losing my job and an inability to pay. If my intention was to duck and dodge, why would I even call them?” In Tillman’s case, however, the debt collectors weren’t exactly lying: He could be arrested for not paying his payday loan debt.
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Tillman took on more payday loans to pay off the original loan and soon found himself in deepening debt. Tillman said he lost his job on a Wednesday and by Friday he was calling The Money Store to ask for an extended payment plan. With his bank account empty and hoping to avoid overdraft fees, Tillman halted the automatic withdrawals he had set up for monthly payments on his payday loans.
Eventually, he reached a manager at The Money Store.
In the first two decades of the 19th century, humanitarians confronted authorities in several states with a litany of abuses, and the public came to see the practice of jailing debtors as repugnant.
New York was the first state to abolish incarceration for debt.
“His statement was that ‘I hope you don’t get stopped by the police, because I’m filing a theft by check charge against you,’” Tillman said. I was floored, because I was expecting to work out a payment plan.” It was no idle threat.
In November 2009, The Money Center, which is the operating name for a company called Marpast of Texas, filed a criminal complaint against Tillman with the Bexar County district attorney in San Antonio.
Debt-collectors and other financial firms, the newspaper reported, are suing borrowers over unpaid credit cards, consumer loans, auto loans and other debts.
Many people report never receiving a notice of the lawsuit and end up with an arrest warrant obtained through the courts.
Tillman’s job as a late-night security guard in Houston had paid an hour, and by picking up extra shifts, Tillman could just afford rent, groceries and other bills.